WHAT IS ANOSOGNOSIA?
Anosognosia is a greek word that directly translates to "not know a disease". It is caused by damage to the brain in association with other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Listed below are frequently asked questions about anosognosia. For more information, refer to the Treatment Advocacy Center's website.
Anosognosia is a result of anatomical damage to a person's brain that inhibits the person from recognizing their own illness. This condition has often been referred to as "lack of awareness" or "lack of insight". Anosognosia is one of the main reasons why people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses refuse or discontinue treatment.
What is Anosognosia?
How is Anosognosia different from denial?
Denial is psychological. Anosognosia is biological, it is a result of physical damage to the brain. The figures below display an MRI of a person with anosognosia (A) compared to the average individual (B). Red areas on the images indicate brain activity. We can see that patient A has significantly less activity than patient B, providing a way to understand why those with anosognosia have difficulty organizing and interpreting information.
Click here to read more about the anatomical basis of anosognosia.
Who is affected by Anosognosia?
Studies have shown that around 50% of individuals with schizophrenia and 40% of those with bipolar disorder have some form of anosognosia. A percentage of alzheimers and stroke patients can also be affected. Unfortunately, caregivers of these individuals are also greatly affected by the disease as well.
Can Anosognosia be treated?
Studies show that awareness can improve with the help of certain antipsychotic medication. However, results vary greatly based on the individual, the medication, and the level of damage to the brain at the time treatment began. Continued research on anosognosia is being conducted to improve prevention of these conditions and new treatment options. Click here to learn more about current advancements in mental health and how you can support further research to cure these diseases.
This is one of the biggest questions in mental health policy and unfortunately one of the hardest to answer. Because someone with anosognosia genuinely lacks the ability to comprehend their sickness, it is best not to argue with or try to convince the person that they are ill. As difficult as it may be, family members and caregivers should try to exhibit as much compassion and patience wth the individual as possible while seeking outside resources to help their loved one's specific situation. Visit our Resources page to read more about the different options that are currently available to caregivers.